Charity fundraising ideas - plan a great event

Charity Fundraising Event Ideas

This post shares fundraising event ideas and then deals with the harder part - running the event so that it actually works! Discover how to execute these charity event ideas effectively even if you are a small charity with a limited budget. 

Fundraising events are a staple for large charities like Macmillan and Oxfam but how do you run successful fundraising events as a small charity? That’s what we address in this post. We cover a range of the most popular types of fundraising events:


Sponsored events

This is the easiest way to get started as a small charity. Many of our small charity clients raise significant sums through sponsored events like walks, runs or bike rides. If you want to integrate sponsored events into the fabric of your charity there are two stages:

  • Support individuals at other events

  • Organise your own events

Supporting individuals at other events

You may have supporters who are already considering fundraising ideas like marathons or bike rides. If you want to get started then research a few upcoming local events and email your supporters to ask if anyone is considering attending. If so they might like to do it as a sponsored event to raise funds for your charity. This takes very little effort and you have nothing to lose.

As you build momentum with this approach here are some practical tips:

  • Segment
Create a segment within your list of supporters for those who engage with raising money for you through sponsored events.
  • Blog
Create a blog post or news story about the event. Name, thank and praise your fundraisers before and after the event. Check out this example from Refugee Support Network.
  • List event
Publish upcoming fundraising events on your website with clear instructions on how to get involved.
  • General info
Add a page to your website on how to fundraise for you. Include resources like brand assets your supporters can use to represent you. Check out this example from Autism Wessex.
  • Choose a platform
Review the choice of fundraising websites and register with one. You want to make it a frictionless process for people to raise money on your behalf!

Organising your own charity events

If you want to be more ambitious you could consider running your own sponsored events. You stand to raise a lot more money and awareness as everyone who attends will be doing so for your cause alone. The downside of this approach is obvious - lots of work. But the upsides are significant. You get much more exposure for your charity brand and build a sense of team and comradery between your supporters.

The easiest way to organise your first event is to copy the model above. Local bike rides, walks or runs are relatively easy to organise and you can often get sponsorship from businesses whose products or services might be relevant. If you want to organise a bike ride, get the local bike shop to offer their maintenance services on the route. This delegates an otherwise daunting task and builds a relationship with a local business who will promote your event.

If you're feeling more ambitious you could organise a group adventure. Trekking in the Andes or climbing Kilimanjaro is a significant enough challenge for most people that they will want to spread the word far and wide to attract sponsorship. When planning a group adventure, here are a few things to consider.

  • Challenging
If it's a challenge, your supporters are more likely to raise significant sums.
  • Exciting
If it's exciting they are more likely to talk about it with their friends and raise awareness.
  • Connected
If there is a clear connection to your cause it will be much easier for people to mention you when they talk about the event.
  • Group size
Plan the group size carefully. It will be much smaller than an easy-to-access local event. Consider a minimum sponsorship level to enter to ensure you make good returns.



Community events

Here are a few examples of popular community events:

Bake sale

Some people love an excuse to bake. Some people love an excuse to eat cake. A bake sale taps into the basic human need for eating and makes it fun, accessible and very low effort. Part with a few ££ and help our cause, easy. If you have a physical building with decent passing traffic you could do this on the street outside if it’s decent weather (remember to get permission). 

Jumble sale

People who would never give to charity will happily pick up a bargain at a jumble sale or car boot sale. These kinds of events can also be great for bringing the community together and exposing more people to the cause of the charity. If you hold it in a local school, community centre or church it can also be the first step toward a new local partnership. 

Christmas Fayre

Christmas can be a great focal point for you to bring together local talent and Christmas shoppers. Think carefully about how you pitch the event and ensure the quality of the products. You may consider partnering with local artisan businesses who may see it as a good opportunity to promote their products and in return would be happy to give a certain proportion of sales to your charity. 


Charity fundraising dinners

The main strength of the fundraising dinner is that it’s a great social occasion. It is a good opportunity for the charity to explain what they do in a relaxed but formal setting. It’s also a great way to thank existing supporters, build a sense of community around the cause and allow existing supporters to introduce the charity to their networks. 

Here are some practical tips on how to run fundraising dinners well:

  • Venue choice
Fundraising dinners rely on supporters inviting their network so the venue needs to be easy to get to and well suited to the demographics of your audience and their guests.
  • Delegate
Get professional caterers to manage the food logistics. In time you may want to branch out and build a volunteer team to help with this but it's a very challenging task so don’t bite off more than you can chew!
  • Group tickets
You want your existing supporters to invite their friends and colleagues. Selling tickets by the table or half table can make it much easier to fill the seats.
  • Agenda
Publish the agenda before you promote tickets. Supporters need to know what they should expect so they can confidently invite others from their network.
  • Account for your time
Don’t underestimate the amount of work involved. Make sure that you factor in staff time when you consider your overall costs to help make sure that you are making a net profit, not a loss.
26 March 2018
Andy Pearson